neyronrose (neyronrose) wrote,

examining m/m

Some very interesting posts here:  I commented on the third entry of the series.  I pretty much agree with much of the argument/discussion/theory of the first two posts.

The third post had some theory that I never would have seen that way.

"...Likewise, male/male romance in all its many forms also constitutes an adaptive response to patriarchal restrictions that make room for and express a non-male-mediated sexuality.  Writing and reading about men gives women an opportunity to pick up the mechanism of our own oppression -- the binary gender system -- and manipulate it to our own ends.  Writing hot stories about men together is an opportunity to explore sexual agency in its most accessible form.  It's also a nice break from the daily grind of cultural expectation, heterosexual power dynamics and gender role baggage.  In my opinion, this is central to women's enthusiasm for m/m.  At the very least, I can tell you that it is the shining light at the heart of my own."  Jessica Freely

I commented relatively far down the thread, and was also replying to other commenters in the thread, particularly Kirsten Saell:

"I'm appreciating this thoughtful series. I don't agree with all the points made, however. I'm not reading m/m for 'a non-male-mediated sexuality.' I want the perspective to seem believably male, and I expect the protagonists to act at least reasonably like men in a relationship together might act. A story gains a level of realism by having a take on sexuality which is very much male-mediated.

A lot of the books I like do deal with 'cultural expectations,' power dynamics, and 'gender role baggage.' They just look at those issues from a different angle.

I don't see m/m as a stepping stone to having women explore their own sexuality. They could well be exploring a different type of sexism than they would encounter directly.

The femdomme I've read has just been really unconvincing and has especially struck me as having badly-written dynamics.

I've also read comments here and there from at least a few women who love m/m stories but are homophobic about f/f. It's interesting to consider the ramifications there."

Here's a copy of the author's original comment on the M/M romance list, and my reply:

From: [Me]
Subject: Re: [mmromancefans] Unpacking the Case Against M/M
Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 7:56 PM


As I commented, I appreciate this series.  It's very thought-provoking indeed, and I like how you're untangling various of the issues involved.  It never occurred to me to read m/m from a feminist perspective, so that was a new angle on it for me.  I got into reading m/m from reading the Romentics (Scott & Scott) novels, then getting some "if you liked this, you may like this" recommendations.  I was surprised to learn that some of the authors I had started reading were women.  I'd read great quantities of straight romance, am fairly queer myself, and had gay friends, so I was just reading from a blend of a romance background and a history of being interested in gay rights.
How interesting to look at m/m fiction as a way for women to explore their own sexuality.  I'd been looking at it as women developing takes on male sexuality, and judge books by how close they come to a male viewpoint and the use of the male gaze, at least in my opinion.  I had always thought that if I wanted a feminist perspective, and purely women exploring their own sexuality without the male gaze, lesbian romance was the place to turn to.  That's so much more obviously an attempt to develop a space free of patriarchal values, I believe.  I suppose reading lesbian romance wouldn't necessarily be seen as a solution by straight women, but the focus there is on women's viewpoints.
I read m/m and straight romance because I like stories which focus on men's good qualities, and the m/m because I enjoy stories about gay men, especially ones with protagonists I feel like I could be friends with.  So for me, m/m stories are entertainment, often at least touch on causes I support, and give me characters I can identify with.
My two cents,

--- On Tue, 10/6/09, jessica_freely <jessicafreely@> wrote:

From: jessica_freely <jessicafreely@>
Subject: [mmromancefans] Unpacking the Case Against M/M
To: mmromancefans@ yahoogroups. com
Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 3:47 PM

Hi everyone,

Whether you support the Lambda Literary Awards change in eligibility or not, if you're an m/m fan, you're probably pretty unhappy about how some people have been characterizing the genre in the ensuing discussion.

The experience has made me realize just how many misconceptions there are about male/male romance and the women who read and write it. So I'm writing a series of blog posts on Friskbiskit dispelling some of the most common myths and misunderstandings. You can check it out here:

http://www.friskbis g-the-case/


Jessica Freely
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I agreed with a lot of what Kirsten Saell said some weeks ago about the difference between lesbian romance and f/f romance.  Once I'd seen a few women describe the difference in focus and tone, I got it.  She has some really different views on m/m romance than I do, but I think her ideas of having m/f/f romance and f/f romance accessible to the women who wouldn't necessarily consider getting lesbian romance are great.  There are a lot of points I want to continue to discuss with her. 

Another part of that third friskbiskit post says: "But however you feel about the Lambda decision, if you're a woman m/m author, chances are you're not too happy with the way some people have characterized you in the ensuing discussion of the LLA rule change. Words like homophobe, voyeur, exploiter, and fetishist have been flying fast and thick."

I don't see how too many authors and readers of m/m romance are homophobic about gay men.  Some readers would rather believe in the extremely sensitive, weeping, feminized man of a good percentage of m/m stories than in the variety of gay men who are out there, but I wouldn't call that homophobia.  Really, if it makes someone support the idea of love and affection between men, that's pretty much a positive thing.

Voyeur?  Not so much.  I don't think of it that way when I'm reading romances.  It's fiction.  I'm not spying on real-life people.  And if I'm watching, say, a soap opera with a male couple, I figure the men got paid for it.  They chose to put those images out there.  If women are enjoying them also, what's there to be upset or jealous about?

"Exploiter" is a fairly vicious term.  The books I like best present a relatively realistic view of gay men.  That doesn't seem like exploitation to me.  It seems like humanizing a group of people who are oppressed.  The ones that present a sweet and highly romanticized view -- well, I give women credit for knowing the difference between romance heroes and actual men.  (Yes, despite what I said above.)  I'm still not seeing women exploiting men the way men can exploit each other.  Maybe I'm hanging out with the wrong people, but I just don't hear the cries of "They're exploiting us!"

I think "fetishist" is a strange take on it.  It certainly isn't like fetishizing a body part or an object.  I suppose I need to really identify with at least one of the characters in a story, so I don't see how I'm fetishizing them.  I just don't really understand where that comes from.  Socially, women are conditioned to find men desirable, and to hold themselves and other women up to a male idea of beauty.  So how is it a fetish to go that step further and find two men desirable?

I just don't see the need for antagonism towards women, especially towards women from other women, that seems to be going on here.  If a woman wants to focus on men for her entertainment reading, it's certainly her right to do so.  If she wants to focus on men who break gender norms, whether relatively realistically or in a feminized, very romanticized way, it's also her right.  I find characters who break gender norms in certain ways to be very attractive, and I like the acknowledgement of the homoerotic themes that are undercurrents in our society. 

Tags: m/m, reading

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